Spontaneous Hip Re-placement

……. Do not try this at home

I have just woken up from a deep sleep ( jet lagged slightly ) with a vivid memory from my early days as a teacher of the technique. In fact I am not sure, even, if I had started ‘practicing’.

With my gap year over ( on completing my AT training I went off on a bicycle for a year to practice on myself and let go into the unknown ) I returned to live for a period in my shepherd’s hut.

This was in close proximity to dear family friends.
The following spring, Sean had had a very traumatic experience with his new hip.. he had fallen on his second post-operative day and a few days later when he was back at home, the tiny, shiny new femoral head popped spontaneously out of its little acetabular socket, not just once.
On this particular occasion, he had done nothing more than walk carefully across the grass. ….perhaps his foot had caught and caused a rotation at the hip. We don’t know.

In response to Mary’s anxious phone call I raced over from my hut to see him rigid with pain on the sofa, barely able to draw breath and unable to move.
I found myself kneeling beside him with his foot cradled at the floor in one hand and the other supporting the outer side and just behind his knee.
My intention was to do no more than attempt to enable him to give me a little of the weight of his leg and facilitate a release somewhere, anywhere, in order to be able to breathe a little more freely, in the hope that this might alleviate the pain. I remember asking him a few questions as to where the pain was most severe.
As well as thinking of his own length and width, especially along his thigh and within his pelvis, I was directing my own back and neck as it was so distressing to see him in such pain and I was sure I did not know what to do for the best bar call an ambulance.
I may have suggested he consider width behind his lower back.

There was a sudden, palpable jolt as his hip thudded back into the socket and we both nearly jumped out of our skins. “You should have seen your face” was his comment.

I do not know exactly what happened, but I do know that over the years of friendship, and the sharing of several life-changing events, mutual respect and trust have been forged. I am honoured by that trust.
I could guess that perhaps for a second, the awful muscle spasm had a moment of reprieve and that the body was clever enough to spot the opportunity and slip the hip back in where it needed to be. I was absolutely not planning on any kind of heroic manipulation…. that is not my department. ….the right thing simply did itself, all by itself.

My thoughts are that moments of intentional release combined with a willingness to be present, even in what can sometimes be a most uncomfortable unknown, can bring about the very unexpected .

Whatever else, it makes a great story for a novice!
( names have been changed )


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Holding on and letting go!

My contribution to Alexander Technique Awarness week.
Holding on…..or creating space.

I thought it could be interesting to combine some of my previous physiotherapy approach, my own personal experience and Alexander principles on the subject of micturition.

Sometimes I would wet my pants when I was a little girl…under our summer dresses, we wore big blue-checked gingham bloomers with elasticated ends which pinched my little thighs, so of course, for the rest of the day it was a soggy, chafing, secret shame.

But everything … learning to read, art and arithmetic, spelling and knitting were all so exciting and interesting that I could not tear myself away from the classroom in case I should miss a single moment. So began the habit of holding on TOO LONG!
I remember that I was also prone to cystitis. A burning, horrible deterrent to going for a wee.
The complexities of the bladder and associated post natal difficulties later became a part of my studies as I stepped into a wonderful job as obstetric physio in the brand new maternity unit in Torbay.
“Urgency”, the (so aptly called) sudden need to urinate, and reduced capacity of the bladder was just one of many possible post natal complications which I could be called upon to treat. It was also a not uncommon problem for more mature women in the gynaecolocy ward.

Years went by and my habit of being ‘doubled up’ for a wee continued in a pretty unconscious way….. occasional minor mishaps, along the way.
But one day (as I was bent over for all I was worth at the bike shed) on my return home from Alexander school, I began to wonder about the sense ….. well the lack of it….. in doubling up, crossing my legs and holding on for dear life…..

All that pulling down would surely be significantly reducing the space for my poor distended bladder. What would happen if I thought of freeing my neck and lengthening and widening.
From then on I made a decision to become more aware of my habits around the whole subject. It is a work in progress.
There are some useful physiological details to add into the equation, which are helpful when retraining a small bladder ( one that has become habituated to holding smaller and smaller volumes) to gradually regain capacity.
The muscle fibers that cause the bladder wall to contract and expel urine, depend on reciprocal relaxation of the bladder neck and pelvic floor sphincter muscles .
Conversely, if the sphincter muscles contract, by conscious control, the bladder wall muscles will reciprocally relax, thus allowing the bladder to enlarge a little.
In other words, a well timed, conscious contraction of the pelvic floor muscles can help to retrain the bladder to hold a greater volume.
( I am experimenting with applying my Alexander directions in this moment of specific activity)
Other useful factors….. the importance of drinking enough water. That coffee and tea can irritate the bladder wall and make it more reactive.

This is not the same as holding on for dear life just because it is too much trouble to go to the loo. In fact holding for too long can cause the very opposite problem…. difficulty in initiating the flow, or in dire cases, retention!

So, with this in mind, when I get a non urgent signal that it is time to go to the loo, what is a useful, conscious response?
I might be in the middle of practising an exhilarating passage of Beethoven.
Or about to go shopping.
In a gripping conversation.
Can I even listen to the signals of mild or growing discomfort?
Can I stop and “let go” of my pressing need to carry on/get going/mind my manners in favour of a pressing need to go to the loo?
It can’t be that hard can it?
This is where force of habit truly is a force, and where inhibition of the gentlest kind is such a grace.
Just stop. Make space. There is time. Time, when the urge is caught several steps BEFORE there is no return….BEFORE doubling up becomes the only option….
Time to listen and think of directing the neck to be free, the back to lengthen and widen.
So much more space in the pelvis for the bladder to function naturally….and for the natural message “hey you, how about me?” to get through. What about courtesy to my bladder? …. courtesy to the whole of this marvelous instrument, my human psychophysical being?
And then make the move to the loo with good humour and time to get my trousers undone without the cross dash and muttering “left it too long AGAIN didn’t you”

So for me the thing is not just a hopeful application of “head neck back etc” in the urgent moment, but a choice to listen and then respond a good deal sooner.
It means holding on to the things I love with a lighter touch in the faith that I can let go for long enough to visit the bathroom and that they will still be there after I have pulled up my trousers!

Old habits?….. ha!
Will you excuse me


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Ernest is a great Photographer

and he has kindly emailed the best shots across.
Playing for Penny and the residents of St. Joseph’s.



and a lovely one of the three of us at the art gallery.


Ernest is also quite something in the kitchen department and we dined with him twice. Susan’s fridge was then bulging with leftovers which fed us during the rest of the week!
I could not have been more welcomed.

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Visit to the Canadian Seven.

This was a fabulous visit to a gallery just north of Toronto.
Inspiring landscapes by men who were passionate about Canada and who portrayed the magnificence of nature with visionary innovation. …. and we were permitted to take photos!




Wonderful bold colours and forms.

and a lovely group too!


From Left to Right, Ernest, Susan, John and myself.

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Here we are.

Do you remember building sand tunnels?
The moment when there is just a finger-hole of daylight between one side and the other?
At some point, if the sand is not firm and the hole is enlarged too much, the whole sand-bridge comes tumbling in.
We were told never, ever to burrow in or crawl through.

In some way I have very carefully compartmentalised my adoptive family and my more recent family…. and now there is perhaps room for a tiny little stream of connection in place of a deep withholding. Call it divided loyalties if it must have a name.
It is one thing to share pictures of myself as an infant with Penny…… she had kept a photo of me as a baby of a few months old and by some intuitive synchrony it reappeared during the year that I had made a decision to seek help to trace her…… about time she had a glimpse of my life, (although I was cautious about giving her the choice.)
It has also been fascinating to share photos of myself at various stages of growing up with my sister Susan and compare them with pics of similar ages of herself and all those brothers!
On one of my morning rides I realised that it was going to be ok to nudge the sand a little more…..just a few grains….. to be able to bring my mother and father alongside for a moment…. In other words, to share a photo of them. ….
Quite easy when it comes to our children….. All those cousins!
Sudden indigestion at so many new faces, past and present generations to take in….. grandparents, great grand parents, siblings, cousins, etc.
Ah, the perfect phrase…..” Cognitive dissonance” ie….. brain fog!
I have had to take little steps and pause.
This is where my Alexander Technique has been an element of extraordinary, almost unexpected support. Just making space. Again and again.
The other major support has come from Susan and John……. I have huge, huge appreciation for the quiet acceptance and gentle respect that both of you have shown while I may have appeared to withdraw or even disengage. ….. Reflecting here in Keene, where I am now staying with Tim and Talu, it really has been a remarkable time, especially when we all came together last Saturday.
Without those morning rides, and your discreet ‘holding’ I might not have felt as comfortable or been able to relax with everyone.
Mark, David, Keith, Brenda and Jaylynn journeyed for several hours so that they could get together for the day. Penny stepped up and made a feisty outing from the nursing home. This has not happened in a long while and meant overcoming a certain amount of trepidation to manage a wheelchair. When David’s car wasn’t quite right, everyone persevered until the right taxi could be found.
Ernest, ( Susan’s and “the brothers’ ” father) also came.
To me this felt like such a gift of generosity from everybody, and it was a delight to see, no, be part of a family get together in gorgeous weather, tucking in to a fabulous barbecue……

Nobody got buried in the sand.
Once in a blue red moon!?

So I think I can share some photos in the other direction, before the tide comes in and washes away this moment in time.
My lovely sister, Susan



The bunch.

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Getting to know the daisies

In the early morning light the Michaelmas daisies have been one thing.
This afternoon, beside the river and in full sunlight, I came up from behind so to speak, and right up close.
I love the way the light glows through them and how their untidy scrimble curls over or stretches out in the most delicate shades of lavender.
Their deep gold centres and pale, fragile stems.
How they are as soloists and in ensemble.
Like members of the same family. Wayward, neat, little and large. Tightly folded up or wide open. Such a mixture.
Each time I potter off along the trail, I spot something even more alluring.
I shall be getting quite familiar soon.





I tried “turning the page” with quick scribbles so as not to get too hooked on an end result.
Here are some of my friends from the river bank.





More friends and family to follow.

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Transmission…… Language……. Perception…. Yawning Gulf……?

“Connecting Through Music”

Does music evoke emotion as much as it expresses emotion?

This question popped up in somebody else’s blog recently and set me thinking (again)

I will be visiting Penny today, so perhaps I will be able to find out more about her experience of music. In the past she has spoken of colour and fabric when talking about our favourite composers.
For me, of course, it just goes straight to emotion. Narrative. Journey. Light and shade.

What is this mystery of music that has held me in it’s embrace and become such a natural means of expression that I have sometimes barely been able to open my mouth for articulate, meaningful communication? Over the decades I have had to work hard to express my ideas, thoughts and feelings. It has become easier, but when I am challenged, I regress and find I am tongue tied all over again.
Did I say anything at all yesterday as I played ? Well, what I mean is, did the music speak of what I felt? Does the language of music exist independently and speak for itself? I hope so, otherwise it would just be an indulgence and an imposition.
It is probably another insolvable mystery, but one which continues to draw me into its web.

I would like to introduce and share a photo of me with Penny.
There are very special and important people (sister Susan and her husband John ) hovering too, but I think it is first things first and maybe more will come later as I feel my way.

For one thing, it was not until I met Penny for the first time about 18 years ago that I had any experience or perception of what it was to know family resemblance. That is so weird I can hardly get my head around it.
I lived life not seeing family resemblance in others let alone for myself.
That all changed over night, as a 40 something year old!

So you can understand how extraordinary it is to look into the face of somebody who looks like me….. who I look like.

It is truly lovely.

But I don’t think I can take in too much at a time.
There is a huge number of relatives stretching back and forth through generations. When I look at all their photos ( all looking like each other and with hints of me and my children and all these cousins and so on) it is like a rolling ocean of fascination …… and my digestive system swings rather quickly into hiccups!

So I will put up just one picture.


This is Penny.
I am very proud of her and grateful for her.
I might otherwise not be here at all.

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